Empathy and Emotions: Do Women Judge Better?

10 Pages Posted: 20 Jun 2006

Date Written: 2006


The legal profession was one of the traditionally male dominated professions: Women gained access very late, only about a hundred years ago. Male gatekeepers watched the doors to the profession jealously. One of the arguments used to keep women out had been that women were - due to their female character, implying emotionality and (resulting from it: moodiness) unable to judge objectively, particularly over men. Initially women made slow, from the seventies onward steady progress in the profession. Meanwhile in most Western countries half or even more of law students are female and the participation in all fields of legal occupation is rising constantly. In Germany 30% of the judiciary are female, in other countries such as France and Italy considerably more. The question is whether this growing participation of women has changed judicial decision making according to the historical assumptions? Do women indeed judge differently or do they even judge better? This latter conclusion would be in line with positions of gender difference cherished by parts of the second women's movement especially in the eighties. On the other hand it has to be taken into account that obviously no open complaints on women judges and their professional competence have been reported. In my paper I will look more deeply into theoretical assumptions of gender difference and compare them to empirical results presented in contributions to a big international comparative project on women in the legal profession and what I found in my own ongoing research. One intriguing outcome is that the perception of women law professionals and their abilities is still influenced by gender prejudice and that this may in a more unexpected and not openly visible way influence judgments and lead to unbalanced results.

Note: Downloadable document is in German.

Keywords: legal profession, judges, gender, discrimination

JEL Classification: K40, J71

Suggested Citation

Schultz, Ulrike, Empathy and Emotions: Do Women Judge Better? (2006). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=910043 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.910043

Ulrike Schultz (Contact Author)

Fernuniversitaet Hagen ( email )

Universitätsstrasse 41
Feithstrathe 140
D-58084 Hagen

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